Spring is coming to Chewonki and the sun is shining brighter and longer each day. Now when we go to breakfast the air glows and the teensy grass shoots on the quad shine an iridescent green. Yes, spring is coming to Chewonki and now the air smells fresher every day. Walking back to the cabins at night it smells of grass, crisp air and soft mud. We feel how close we are to summer when in our cabins we can keep the windows open to let in a friendly breeze, but we feel how close we still are to winter when at night we cocoon ourselves into blankets to ward of the chill now that we often go without a fire at night. We are all seeing, smelling and feeling spring. But my favorite way to sense the seasons shifting is by listening.
Chewonki neck is bursting with the sounds of spring. Waking up in the middle of the night for lamb watch I heard spring in the bleat of the newly born lambs as they eyed us warily and called out to their moms for more milk. Sitting outside writing this I hear it in the light breeze that ruffles the boughs of the great white pines at the front of the quad. Yesterday, I heard it in the plops of the raindrops as they ricocheted of rooftops and gathered in puddles at my feet. Today I am sure I will hear it in the shouts and laughs as people sit outside reading, playing Frisbee, lounging in a hammock or soaking up the sun. However, no sound of spring is more pervasive and wonderful to me than the sound of the birds.
All winter long we have been listening to The Birds in the form of our weekly Wednesday class with Don Hudson where we learn to identify birds by their appearance and songs. However going outside in the middle of February the only bird I could ever seem to hear was the infamous black capped chickadee calling out its “chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee” from the its perch in the yew bush like some little bowling ball on wings that missed the memo to migrate. Now any time, out on work program, lying in bed, sitting outside or working in class it is like being out at the opera only all of the divas are pint sized, feathered and mainly male. This morning I woke up to the songs of the birds in the woods behind our cabin, the song sparrow with is flute-like, long complex song; the phoebe with its insistent “Pho-bee,” the crawk of a crow flying overhead, and of course the omnipresent chickadee singing “pee-wee,” instead of its usual “chickadee.” In class last week I heard my first “phoe-bee” from the tree out the history window, and needless to say was more excited than I ever thought I would be to hear a bird call. As we start preparing for solos next weekend, Marjo recommended to lie outside and listen to the sounds to become accustomed to them in preparation for when we are out in the woods alone and are all to inclined to convince ourselves that every acorn-chomping chipmunk is a knife wielding psycho killer. I took her advice, sat outside, listened to the birds, and knew beyond any measure of doubt that it is spring.
-Lucy Bates-Campbell, New York, NY